“The Final One,” the last bout of Bernard Hopkins' pro career, unfolds tomorrow evening in Los Angeles and on HBO.
We have not seen the likes of Hopkins in this or any lifetime. A graduate of a penitentiary, a man of fierce and sometime abrasive pride who has used a beyond exceptional store of willpower to stay in physical and mental condition that allows him to fight at a world class level against fighters young enough to be his son. His run will not be replicable, because even if someone does approximate his longevity run, the manner in which he did it has to be patented.
On this occasion, the kid in the other corner is 27 year old Joe Smith Jr. Boring name, but possessor of some of the best staredown eyes in the business. Anyone booking roles in an Irish mob flick would do well to snag Smith for a role…Beyond the eyes, his fists are suitable for smashing. His defense can be leaky, understandable since his first desire is to launch, not cover up. Hopkins has chosen him for the holes he sees in the Smith arsenal.
At the final press conference, Hopkins' remarks gave a late breaking flavor to the event, beyond merely being his adios bout. “Special,” the 51 7/8 age man haughtily termed himself, and “common” is how he derisively referred to the Long Island construction worker/light heavyweight contender.
At the weigh in Friday, Smith spoke on the distinction. “I'm gonna put on a great show, and this common man's gonna beat his ass,” said Smith, with a brevity befitting his name.
As an aside, Smith, rated No 2, is part of the WBC's Clean Boxing Program and has been getting tested randomly. Hopkins isn't ranked by the WBC and hasn't. Both will be screened for PEDs by the CA commission.
Ideally, Hopkins would have showed he is on board that even playing field, and helped set a leadership tone.
This I will say, Hopkins has forgotten more than most will ever learn. He is a sagacious wizard of spacing and timing and Ring generalship. He has the edge against a foe with that quintessential punchers' chance. But Smith's eyes…based off the staredown only, these guys go into the ring as even money.